If you’re sick of Apple’s walled garden but have yet to make the jump from the iPhone to an Android handset, here’s what to expect, how to adjust and how to cope with certain app withdrawal.
Let me preface all of this by saying that for many — not all — the switch from iPhone to Android will feel like being covered in Band-Aids and ripping each one off over the course of a few weeks. This is not because there’s anything particularly wrong with either mobile operating system, but because they have different paradigms. Android and iPhone feel different, look different and accomplish things in sometimes very different manners. Nonetheless, they’re both mobile operating systems with touch interfaces, so it’s hard to avoid comparing the two and finding similarities between them. If you decide to ditch your iPhone and give Android a try, be prepared for a little culture shock.
While some things are worse and others just different, there are quite a few things Android does best, and you’ll want to be sure to check them out.
Voice capabilities are also new and exciting. The iPhone’s Voice Control exists, but it’s limited to music, apps and a few other areas of the phone. Android gives you surprisingly accurate voice search that lets you enter text into any field with your voice, make calls to businesses just by saying their names or find pretty much anything on the web.
Freedom of Choice
On the iPhone you have the App Store; on Android you have the Android Marketplace. One of the reasons you may want to switch to Android is the choice of carrier and hardware it provides, along with its much more open app market. This has its disadvantages, which we’ll talk about it later, but the upside is the freedom developers have to bring you all kinds of apps. There are apps that look exactly like their iPhone counterparts, but also apps that dig a lot deeper into the OS, letting you customise all sorts of uses and notifications, and have a seductive level of control over what you can do.
On Android, the web is here. On your iPhone, you have to bring it to you. If you’re an eager Google service user and you supply your Android phone with your Google credentials, you’ll quickly find your phone is filled with all sorts of information. You’ll have email, calendar items, contacts, bookmarks and more. I found out I had calendars and contacts in Google I didn’t know existed. You can also connect to Facebook and Twitter to pull even more information into your phone. When Android detects contact information that should belong to an existing contact, it’ll suggest you link it. While the way it displays everything isn’t so great, and you don’t always have easy handles on what you don’t want to see, information is in constant sync with your web apps.
It’s not all good news when you switch. Android has its issues too. Fortunately you can work around most of them.
Apple insists their walled garden of an App Store is necessary to keep everyone safe — and, infamously, offer freedom from porn — and in some ways they may be right. The Android Marketplace has begun to see a spyware problem. How big of an issue it is may be up for debate, but it exists. When you download an Android app, you’ll need to consider its source and note the warnings about the sorts of data it can access. Be prudent and think before you install.
It is worth noting that Apple’s App Store isn’t bereft of spyware; it just hasn’t grown to the projected proportions of the Android Marketplace.
Blame the Manufacturer
Low Battery Warning
The good and bad aside, you’ll most likely be uncomfortable until you hit the other side of the learning curve. Switching from one OS to another isn’t supposed to be, so stay patient and stick with it.
There’s something about (multi)touch on Android that isn’t quite as elegant as the iPhone. The animations aren’t as smooth, touch doesn’t always respond the same way and things just don’t feel right. In some cases you’ll find yourself adjusting to the little differences, such as sliding down to unlock your phone rather than left to right (as you’re used to with the iPhone). In other cases you may find things just don’t feel the way you hoped, like when scrolling and you hit a hard stop at the bottom of a page (whereas an iPhone will bounce a little to let you know you’ve reached the end). How hard it is to adjust to the touch, the feel of cotton Android will depend on you, but remember this: It’s different. It’s not an iPhone, so don’t expect one.
- Alt + Spacebar lets you insert special characters
- Alt + Delete will delete an entire line
- Pressing Shift twice will initiate caps lock.
- Menu + X will cut all text, Menu + C will copy it, Menu + V will paste clipboard text and Menu + A will select everything in the current field.
- Alt + Q inserts a tab space.
The upside to Android? If you want to try a keyboard that’s vastly different, like the gesture-based Swype, you have that option as well.
Consistency of the interface is another piece of culture shock. Maybe staring at a grid of iPhone apps felt like staring into your probable future as a member of the Apple occult, but at least you knew what you were getting. On Android, you have several pages with different items and you may find yourself swiping around blindly. Just like you would with a grid of apps with no real immediate notification of what’s what, you’ll get used to the differing pages of your home screen. If not, you can always replace it with a nifty app like SlideScreen (something the iPhone could really use).
Real (or Unreal) Buttons
Speaking of the menu button, you’ll find that navigating an Android phone requires the use of those four buttons below the screen. This can be very off-putting at first. You might wonder what purpose is served by offering dedicated buttons which, on some handsets, aren’t really even buttons at all. As you get used to them and memorise where they are, you’ll adapt, but initially you may want to pull your hair out wondering why everything isn’t part of the touch screen. Simply put, iPhone apps have been designed for some time now as single environments with multiple screens to page through, while Android apps function a bit more like traditional desktop apps — a single screen, with buttons and options, made to be switched into and out of regularly.
Out of Sync
Storage on an iPhone is a sealed deal (much like the battery), but on Android it’s expandable. On one hand this is great because you essentially have no limits, but it also means purchasing an additional MicroSDHC card (or two) in order to fit everything you want. Generally you only start with 8GB. Whether you go out and grab a 32GB card or a few smaller ones, you may have to start considering your storage a bit differently.
Have you switched from iPhone to Android? What was painful, pleasant or something in-between?